P.J. Higgins making most of opportunities with Cubs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
If there’s anyone who should appreciate and identify with Cubs catcher P.J. Higgins, look no further than his manager.
David Ross had a similar role during his 15-year big-league career as a backup catcher and resonates with Higgins — the third backstop on the Cubs’ depth chart.
“It is a difficult role, and it is one that’s probably a little bit easier for veteran guys to fall into than young guys,” said Ross of Higgins, whom the Cubs promoted from Triple-A Iowa in May, pregame Wednesday.
Higgins has continued to make the most of his opportunities when called upon, and that ability to produce was again evident Wednesday.
And perhaps never more impressive.
With the Cubs and Brewers locked in a 1-1 ninth-inning tie, Higgins hit a go-ahead RBI double off All-Star closer Josh Hader. The Cubs won 2-1 to pick up their fourth straight series win.
“I didn’t quite barrel it but a knock’s a knock,” a smiling Higgins said. “I’ll take that.”
Higgins has received sporadic playing time since the Cubs promoted him over a month ago. He’s started 13 of the 27 games he’s played while appearing at three different positions.
He made his ninth start since the beginning of June Wednesday with Willson Contreras out of the lineup with left hamstring tightness.
His demeanor has impressed his manager.
"I think early on you saw a real ability to handle a pitching staff, call a good game, work to have a quality at-bat, have contact," Ross added of Higgins before the game.
"Bringing the skill set he already had and putting that into that role, it kind of fits easily. But it also takes a nice, strong mental person and the way he’s figured out his routine has been really good."
Higgins went 1-for-4 Wednesday, a line that includes a deep fly out that Keston Hiura hauled in with a great catch at the left field fence.
He credits his ability to stay ready in this role to being able to mentally prepare last summer, when he was rehabbing after season-ending elbow surgery.
"That’s my role, I’ve accepted it and I’m all about it," Higgins said. "Just make sure I’m mentally prepared and I’m fully focused when I get into the box.”
A role he's having success in. Higgins is hitting .299/.373/.522 this season. Eight of his 20 hits have gone for extra bases, including three home runs.
It's a continuation of what he did with Triple-A Iowa before being promoted in May. He hit .417/.500/.569 in 22 games with the I-Cubs.
“He had a great start to the season down in Triple-A, getting called up, and then just carried that right through,” Ross said after Wednesday’s win.
“I think there's something to be said about finding that rhythm early on and being able to maintain that, finding your routine in the downtime.
“He's done a really nice job of that and continues to excel.”
Contributing from Milwaukee: Gordon Wittenmyer